Sunday, November 20, 2005

Looking Back: Thinking Forward - Part 7 

This is part 7 of an extended article reviewing early blog entries and what I have learned from them.

PR Strategy

PR strategy is a catchall category for a broad range of blog entries that loosely fit under policy decisions: Much can enter into strategy considerations. This heading covers comments on what organizations were doing, such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) who are fighting file-swapping (1/24/2003), and the disastrous PR they were reaping from their efforts. I discussed AOL Time Warner’s credibility problem (1/30/2003) after the merger with AOL. “What seemed like a good idea is now known as one of the dumber decisions in U.S. business history….And this from the company that publishes Fortune, Business 2.0 and Money magazines.” I noted in amazement American Airlines’ decision to shrink its seat space even more (5/22/2003) when passengers are already livid about air travel. I commented on the PR problems with stock options (7/9/2003). I noted how Google’s brand had fared well even though it is a new company (2/12/2003). I spotlighted Dell Computer’s “rubbing in” its success at time when the rest of the industry tanked (10/03/2002) in order to pressure competitors such as Gateway and Hewlett-Packard. I looked at historical PR successes such as the Rockefeller family’s successful efforts to rehabilitate its name (10/06/2003), and colonists’ “image-mongering” after the battles of Lexington and Concord at the beginning of the Revolutionary War (6/30/2003).

As for PR practitioners, I emphasized the need for practitioners to have credibility with CEOs in order to gain influence in decision-making (3/10/2003) and disclosure (6/18/2003). I noted the role of cultural taboos in PR decision-making (4/28/2003). And, while reflecting on the looting of Baghdad and Basra, I wrote that PR assumes “civility between message senders and message receivers. When civility breaks down, the response is force -- and force is a crude instrument as we have seen in Iraq. It punishes the innocent along with the guilty.” (4/14/2003) Finally, I described some of my experiences in fashioning PR strategy and the complexities of it (1/14/2003).

Blogging about PR strategy was too diffuse and needed greater focus. Looking forward, I will attempt to do that and to define it better than I did.

PR Tactics

PR tactics are a grab-bag of things that appeared and caught my attention. They included the use of name recognition in promotion (10/10/2002), and its spurious appeal to authority; the launch of a Barbie doll blog (12/13/2002); the former CEO of IBM’s distaste for reporters (12/30/2002) and why; the significance of search engine page ranking to PR (1/06/2003); an example of a good online newsroom (1/16/2003); the use of military spam (1/20/2002) and Web sites (4/15/2003) in the Iraqi war; the Web as a crisis tool in the space shuttle disaster ( 2/5/2003); a move to inject fans into auto racing (3/20/2003); the use of the Internet to organize protests (1/22/03); the use of Web site newsrooms for story pitching (4/16/2003) and the publicity potential of cheap cell phones with cameras (4/25/2003).

I pointed to examples of good tactics from homemade and goofy, such as bras in a tree (9/26/2003), to civic minded (8/18/2003) and to inspired creativity, such as Ruder Finn’s “Mr. Picassohead” (12/04/2003).

I discussed uncertainties of PR work, such as media pitching (8/4/2003), unhappy clients (10/31/2003); when to stay on the record with media (11/05/2003) and how much image manipulation PR practitioners should allow (4/3/2003). I noted that many PR tactics online are not new but transposed from traditional publicity (12/16/2003), and I harped on the issue of usability and online presentation of content (9/11/ 2002, 5/1/2003), an area in which PR practitioners should be actively engaged with Web designers.

There was more on tactics, but what is here is sufficient to grasp the disparate nature of topics and comments. I was wrong not to concentrate on tactics in a more disciplined manner. PR practitioners need examples to follow in their work. Ours is a business where we take good ideas from others and adapt them. No one creates new ideas all of the time. We tend to use old forms in new ways. Going forward, I shall try to be more focused.

The State of the PR Business

PR took a beating with the bursting of the Internet bubble, and it has never quite recovered. The industry was overstaffed and invested too heavily in technology companies that were more figment than fact. There was too much pandering to boost stock prices and too much glorification of CEOs and entrepreneurs.

In surveying the wreckage (1/2/2003), I commented that the business looked as if it had gone back to the “early 1990s when there was no great growth except through purchase of agencies that added incremental revenue to the big firms' bottom lines.” I relayed views of others who were similarly gloomy about the growth of PR (3/05/2003, 11/24/2003) and concerned about the revenue-driven bent of communications conglomerates (7/14/2003, 12/19/2003). I noted the concern that older practitioners have with maintaining quality in big revenue-driven agencies (9/24/2003) and the instability of accounts (11/26/2003). I concluded that productivity would keep agency population counts down because with technology one can do more with fewer people (8/8/2003).

I backed away from watching the state of the PR business because it is hard without official reporting to know what is happening. In this, Jack O’Dwyer is right. Major PR groups and their revenues are buried inside of communications conglomerates and invisible. About all we have learned from quarterly earnings teleconferences with analysts is that some communications conglomerates point to PR agencies as a reason for their declines in revenue. Meanwhile, independent agencies today are too small to define what the PR industry is doing and in-house PR departments are not well documented. When one can’t write accurately, it is better not to write at all.


Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?